On the big screen

FAIRYTALE ROMANCE: Emma Watson and Dan Stevens star in Beauty and the Beast which will be in cinemas in March.  Picture: PA Photo/2016 Disney Enterprises Inc.

FAIRYTALE ROMANCE: Emma Watson and Dan Stevens star in Beauty and the Beast which will be in cinemas in March. Picture: PA Photo/2016 Disney Enterprises Inc.

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As another film year begins, Damon Smith looks at some of the blockbusters, dramas, comedies and potential Oscar winners.

Only one film in the top 20 highest grossing features of 2016 at the UK box office was an original concept – the computer-animated romp The Secret Life Of Pets. Audiences simply couldn’t resist fast food filmmaking, which served up a comforting array of sequels, prequels, remakes, spin-offs and adaptations, so it should come as no surprise that 2017 promises a relentless onslaught of the deeply familiar across all genres.

Testosterone-fuelled showdowns torn from the pages of Marvel and DC Comics punctuate the year, including Hugh Jackman’s final bow as Wolverine in the gritty chase thriller Logan (March 3), a groovy battle beyond the stars with Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana in Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (April 28), and a stand-alone origin story for Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman (June 2).

High school student Peter Parker (Tom Holland) spins a new web of intrigue in Spider-Man: Homecoming (July 7) and sibling rivalry unfolds on an epic scale, pitting Chris Hemsworth against Tom Hiddleston in Thor: Ragnarok (October 27).

Fans of computer animation have plenty to whet their appetites including a new adventure for Belgian cartoonist Peyo’s loveable blue creations Smurfs: The Lost Village (March 31), the return of arch-villain Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) and those mishap-prone Minions in Despicable Me 3 (June 30), and one final lap of glory for Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) in Pixar’s Cars 3 (July 14).

There are also two live action renderings of very different animations: Disney’s tale as old as time Beauty And The Beast (March 17), which pairs Emma Watson’s songbird Belle and Dan Stevens’ hideously transformed Prince, and Scarlett Johansson as a counter-terrorist cyborg in the bullet-riddled dystopia of Ghost In The Shell (March 31).

Gore hounds, who like their horror movies bloodthirsty, will be howling with glee at 2017’s monstrous offerings. In terms of remakes, Tom Cruise meets his match in Sofia Boutella’s decaying Egyptian princess in The Mummy (June 9). Additionally, vampires and werewolves continue their feud in Underworld: Blood Wars (January 13), Milla Jovovich completes her six-picture tour of duty as the survivor of zombie apocalypse in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (February 3) and Ridley Scott conducts a symphony of screams in deep space in Alien: Covenant (May 19).

Book shelves provide the inspiration for T2 Trainspotting (January 27), which reunites director Danny Boyle, screenwriter John Hodge and the original cast, the saucy slap and tickle of Fifty Shades Darker (February 10) amd the harrowing real-life events of the bombing of the 2013 Boston marathon in Patriots Day (February 24).

Oscar nominee Jacob Tremblay (Room) plays a boy with a facial deformity who proves that beauty comes from within, in Wonder (April 7), the true story of an animal lover’s bravery during the Second World War casts Jessica Chastain as The Zookeeper’s Wife (May 5), while Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey lock spurs in Stephen King’s western horror, The Dark Tower (July 28). Also, Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne blast into space in Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets (August 4) directed by Luc Besson, Michael Fassbender plays Detective Harry Hole in Jo Nesbo’s frost-bitten thriller The Snowman (October 13), Kate Winslet and Idris Elba are plane crash survivors who fall in love in The Mountain Between Us (October 20), Jennifer Lawrence essays a Russian double agent in Red Sparrow (November 10), and Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) interrogates an all-star cast of suspects including Johnny Depp, Judi Dench and Michelle Pfeiffer in Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express (November 24).

The small screen can be thanked for big-budget thrills and spills, including a tongue-in-cheek splash with the Los Angeles County Lifeguards of Baywatch (May 12) featuring Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron in fetching red shorts and high-speed shenanigans on two wheels with Dax Shepard and Michael Pena in the buddy cop caper ChiPs (August 11).

A few likely contenders for Academy Awards glory on Sunday, February 26 have already flexed their muscles including the cryptic sci-fi thriller Arrival, starring Amy Adams, David Mackenzie’s nail-biting crime drama Hell Or High Water, featuring a scene-stealing Jeff Bridges and the hysterical Florence Foster Jenkins, boasting a perfect comic duet between Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant.

Most of the frontrunners for the major prizes are yet to show their hand on this side of the Atlantic. The three favourites for Best Picture are Damien Chazelle’s gorgeously romantic musical La La Land (January 13), which should earn deserving nods for fleet-footed leads Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling; Kenneth Lonergan’s gut-wrenching portrait of grief, Manchester By The Sea (January 13), blessed with stellar performances from Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and 19-year-old rising star Lucas Hedges; and Barry Jenkins’ exquisite coming of age drama Moonlight (February 24). There will be multiple nominations too for the heart-breaking true life drama Lion (January 20) starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman and Mel Gibson’s incendiary war opus Hacksaw Ridge (January 27). In the closely contested acting categories, Natalie Portman is spellbinding as Jackie Onassis in the aftermath of President John F Kennedy’s assassination in Pablo Larrain’s unconventional biopic Jackie (January 20).

Diane Keaton and Brendan Gleeson in Hampstead.

Cinema and TRAILER: Keaton brings the common touch to the Heath in tale of London life